Are you responding or reacting?

Updated: Dec 28, 2020

One of many choices that will help you stay the course on a peaceful path is choosing what I've dubbed, the 3R solution:

Photo by Christina Morillo from Pexels

➡️Replace

➡️Reaction with

➡️Response

I'll be the first to admit that I STILL struggle with this, years after I began putting it into practice but the first, critical step is awareness.



I was unaware for the majority of my life. I thrived on being reactionary, it was what felt comfortable and natural. I frankly knew of no other way to be.


Once I learned I had a choice in the matter, I've been committed to doing the necessary self-work to get me to the highest possible ratio of responses (over reactions). And since then I've reclaimed my personal power and freedom in ways I've never known.


You may be asking what's the difference anyway? Here's a little breakdown:

To help paint a clearer picture here's a real life scenario example:


Getting home after picking up the kiddo I'm getting ready to prepare dinner and the dog pees in the kitchen, again.


This scenario actually has happened quite a few times (prior to arriving at a solution), see below to see the results of a time I reacted versus a time when I responded.


REACTION:

I'm annoyed by the situation and overwhelmed so I curse to myself ("WTF!! FR? Again?!") and I yell out loud that this has happened several times and it makes no sense when I just took him out before picking up kiddo from school.


At this point, negative thoughts take over, "what am I doing wrong, I can't even take care of my dog properly? How incompetent am I? Why is everything so hard? Now dinner is delayed. Great, more work for me, it never ends." While cleaning up I loudly sigh and groan as I exclaim how I have a million things to do and this is slowing me down.


RESULT OF MY REACTION:

My frustration grew & I subconsciously carried this negative energy, irritation & stress with me through the night, into my interactions with the rest of the family. I killed the whole vibe of the evening and passed the energy onto others.


RESPONSE:

I'm bothered by what's happened. I take notice of my body getting tight, particularly my shoulders, due to emotions rising. I then resist the urge to react. I close my eyes for a few secs, take a breath. While reflecting on solutions, I accept what's happened (I literally tell myself, "it's done, it's happened, let's keep it movin'") and I clean up the mess.


Staying solutions-oriented I thought, I'm usually rushing to walk the dog after my last work meeting because I don't want to be late picking up my son from school. Maybe the dog needs more time outside in the late afternoons.


RESULT OF MY RESPONSE:

Because my mind was clearer I was able to think logically. My energy shifted to solutions and was able to keep a positive vibe for the evening. I made a plan to change up the routine the following day and instead walk the dog with my son after school so we could take our time. It worked, our dog hasn't peed in the kitchen since, & the new daily afternoon walk became something my son excitedly looked forward to everyday.


The resistance to react and ability to RESPOND instead literally created new possibilities, solutions and an unintentional precious tradition.


choosing to react = giving up control, your power & possibility


choosing to respond = choosing power, peace, & possibility


One thing I want to note is that after becoming aware of this behavior it is possible to avoid the result of reacting despite having already reacted. A reaction isn't necessarily sealing your fate. If you become aware you can express this and take a moment to center yourself.


WHAT YOU CAN DO

In a nutshell I take the following steps to put in the work to replace reactions with responses:

  1. Work on self-awareness

  2. Stay solutions focused

  3. Develop calming strategies

  4. Share this goal with others to help me hold myself accountable

  5. Explore the source of my reactions to get familiar. This puts me in a better place to conquer them.

The full replacement may not happen overnight for many of us, but if we can choose to start replacing now, even if it feels painful and unnatural...it will become easier and more organic in time, and sooner rather than later.


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